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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Frank “Pete” K. Everest Jr., Brigadier General, USAF (Retired)August 09, 1920 – October 01, 2004
United States Air Force General. Known as “The Fastest Man Alive.”, he was the Chief Test Pilot of the United States Air Force.
Born in Fairmont, West Virginia, he gained prominence during World War II as an ace. Flying 96 combat missions over Africa, Sicily and Italy, where he shot down two German aircraft and damaged a third. Then switched to strafing and bombing Japanese-held targets over China. When his P-51 Mustang was crippled by ground fire in 1945 he bailed out deep behind Japanese lines where he was captured and held prisoner until the war’s end.
On October 29, 1953, he set a speed record of 755.149 mph for low-altitude flying as he skimmed the eastern shore of the Salton Sea in his F-100 at an altitude of about 75 feet. Previously, in August of 1949, he flew a Bell X-1 experimental rocket plane to an unofficial height of 73,000 feet over the Mojave Desert, breaking the record. Later, in 1956, he flew the X-1B to Mach 2.3, and the X-2 to record Mach 2.9. That flight earned him the title of “Fastest Man Alive.” During his 10 years as a test pilot, Everest checked out 122 aircraft, including fighters, bombers and cargo planes.
Retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General in 1973 as Commander of Air Rescue and Recovery Service with over 9,000 flying hours. Inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1989 and was a member of the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame’s 1997 class, which also included Senator John McCain, a former Navy pilot.
General Everest was recognized repeatedly for his contributions to aerospace progress; chosen as one of 1955’s “Ten Outstanding Young Men” by the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce; in 1956 the United States Chamber of Commerce named him one of the nation’s “Greatest Living Americans.” A year later he was awarded both the Harmon Trophy and the Octave Chanute Trophy.
His military decorations included Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart.
Died at his home in Tuscon, Arizona. (bio by: Fred Beisser)
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